wet-year tomato troubles: the plot sickens

rotten tomatoI HARVESTED TWO RIPE TOMATOES THIS WEEK, or so I thought. Too bad they were all black and nasty inside. Like I said not long ago in “Tomato Troubles in a Wet Year,” we’ve got trouble here in River City. And the plot just sickened.

I’m thinking the nearly 6 inches of additional rain this last week won’t exactly be providing any curative effects, either.

What’s wrong with my fruit? The plants they came from look otherwise-healthy (all are hybrid paste types; my heirlooms are on the critical list already, having no built-in disease resistance, apparently, to whatever ails me). I actually think that the red ones with the black insides suffered not from a disease, but from some meteorological upset at pollination time, affecting the would-be seeds, which might mean the later-setting ones (many green fruits are hanging now, all apparently intact) will be OK. (Aren’t I the endless Pollyana? Please, don’t burst my watery bubble.)

But that green guy with wet blossom end? I bet he has some anthracnose, or alternaria, or something else disgusting-sounding in the fungal arena.

I am no plant pathologist, so who knows what’s really up, and I suspect even the professionals’ heads are spinning in a year that has the Pacific Northwest and parts of the South like Texas toasted, and the Northeast drowning and relatively cool.

I’m just a gardener, and a cook whose vegetarian diet relies heavily on an annual stash of all my year’s worth of tomato products that I put up. So what I all I really want to know is this:

Where’s that going to come from? The usual “staples” (like part of last year’s frozen bounty, below) are starting to look like they’ll be luxury items in this upside-down year.

frozen sauce

  1. Rae says:

    I just had the world’s worst tomato- a fake tomato from the store that didn’t even improve with lime juice. I wish I were in Mesa, Arizonia where my brother harvested an organic bumper crop and canned about 60 gallons (or so I’ve been told) of the lovely fruit. It’s just one of those years.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Rae. One of those years, indeed. Wow, your brother sounds like he is on the winning side of the equation. Maybe next year here, huh? See you soon, I hope.

  2. suzanne says:

    same here on the Jersey Shore a disaster so far but container cherries and juliet grapes are thriving Why is that?

  3. TexasDeb says:

    At least you have tomatoes to hand wring over. Here in Tx most of us have given up for the year – too hot too soon and for too long for most tomato varieties. We barely got a handful for all our expensive extra water we shared with those plants. The peppers on the other hand, are looking to provide us with a bumper crop. [Hand raised to hot dry sky] “Next year!!”.

  4. chigal says:

    My cherry tomato (one plant) has sprawled all over and become so heavy with fruit that it tore down a neighboring basket, yesterday. No casualties except one half-uprooted pineapple sage. I hope this is normal — it keeps popping out with more baby green tomatoes, and meanwhile the first ones are growing extremely slowly. And my big indeterminate vines barely have fruit yet. You Nor’easters have me worried.

  5. ann says:

    Tomatoes seem good here but not ripe yet.
    We’ll see what happens in Dakota.
    I did have a pineapple sage that bloomed
    beautiful red (at least label said Pineapple sage)
    but have never been able to get plant again

  6. Helen says:

    My three tomato plants started off beautifully, and I sensed the addition of egg shell for calcium was paying off. But alas, after the Early Girl outdid herself with beautifully formed fruit, something hit all our community gardens and the plant leaves shriveled one by one, spreading quickly. It is not the usual blight, for what fruit developed seemed unaffected except by dwindling size and number, but the taste was not there either. Strange!

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Helen. Yes, the mysteries this year are many. Doubt we will ever solve them all, or know what killed what. So sorry. Hope we see you again soon, even without tomatoes. :)

  7. chigal says:

    I snagged the pineapple sage at a local garden center by going first thing in the morning on a Friday in June — seems like that’s the only way to get the good stuff around here — they were down to one plant already and I’d struck out for the past couple years.

    Totally worth all the effort.


    Margaret, am so sorry about your tomatoes, have been there, done that, but we moved this past year, put in a raised garden and my tomatoes are great for a change and hopefully I can do the same next year. Thanks for all your information.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Ruth. Mine are in raised beds that have been prepped in a major way this spring…but nothing helps against two feet of rain. See you soon again (and send some tomatoes, OK?).

  9. Donna says:

    Hi Margaret –

    I love your blog and have become a regular reader. I too, am suffering from blight this year in my PA garden. I have 16 gorgeous fat and thriving tomato plants, all home grown from seed, many over 6 ft. tall. I have been judiciously picking off a little early blight and Septoria leaf spot and spraying with a sulfur based fungicide as a preventitive.

    Sadly, on Wednesday I noticed late blight spots on my treasured Thomas Jefferson Brandywines, grown from seed from Monticello. Next evening (last night)I had to cut down 7 of my beauties, all heirlooms. Tears stung my eyes. Surgery on the others this morning and a much stronger fungicide. I’m not sure that will even help, but I’m not giving them up without a big fight.

    I can’t imagine how the Irish felt. Green blessings to eveyone.

    Cheers :-)

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Donna. My ‘Brandywine’ tomatoes are in the worst shape of all, too. No late blight (yet) but ugh. I am enchanted to see the post about your little combo potting shed-greenhouse creation, your new escape place. Jealous! Thanks for all, and see you soon.

      @Ami: Sounds like various kinds of fungal problems, as we all have. Some cause leaves to be spotted, some then get crispy, and all manner of things. I am trying to allow fruits to at least start to color up, and in fact some are finally ripening.

  10. Ami says:

    Margaret ,Im in Claverack. My tomatoes look exactly like yours. Its my first year with a veg garden and Im so disappointed. I have 16 plants, 6 varieties and they are looking really bad. Can I harvest the ones which are very green this early? If I had raised beds ( I just made mounds) would they have fared better? Funny thing is after all this rain- they looked OK until this week. Then, in addition to these black/brown areas on the fruit about 1/2- 1/3 of the leaves on the plants (on stems which don’t hold fruit) are yellow OR crisp and brown. Strange reaction to too much water- no?

  11. Janice says:

    Poor tomatoes. it sounds awful for everyone in the NE US this year. Hope the farmers relying on tomato crops don’t fare too badly.
    We normally have issues with late blight here in BC, and after a really bad infestation one year that occurred earlier than usual, I now plant ALL my tomatoes under cover — either in the greenhouse, or well back under the eaves in our patio. It has reduced the late blight issue entirely for me. Everything is also in separate pots just in case a plant gets diseased, I can easily eradicate everything associated with that particular plant. I have all on a drip system, and since doing so, have had not issues with BER. It definitely reduces the number of tomato plants I plant now, AND requires a bit more planning at the beginning of the season, but means I actually get tomatoes I can use.
    Hope the weather improves so you get a bit of summer this year!

  12. Judy says:

    First of all, thanks for the wonderful blog. My sister turned me on to all your blogs this spring and I’ve enjoyed each one.
    After an unseasonably cool July, August has hit with a vengeance here in eastern Kansas. I’m hoping with the hot sun all those green tomatoes will start ripening soon.
    I thought I was so smart this year when I planted 30 plants in an old cold frame that housed 3 goats last summer (they were my fence-clearing crew). I figured all that goat manure would give me a great tomato harvest.
    Well, the plants are huge, they reach over my head, but they’ve spent the early summer producing way too much leaf and not enough tomatoes. Hopefully with the heat the fruit will catch up. There’s never a dull moment for a gardener.

  13. lindsay says:

    I cut into my first rotten tomato today, so immediately I jumped on Google to find out what the problem is. I have the exact same problem, beautifully ripened on the outside and black and rotted interiors. Oddly, my heirlooms (green zebras & various pear and cherries) are fine, while my roma hybrids look similar to the pictures that you took. I have been so paranoid about late blight, so when my fruit ripened without any noticeable bruises or lesions I thought I was in the clear. This is my first year with a garden, and it has felt like we live in a swamp in Jersey. As soon as the ground dries, we get torrential downpour. Best wishes for the rest of your green tomatoes!

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Judy. Sounds like you have Nitrogen galore! And yes, never a dull moment. Glad you sister put us in touch, and hope that we will see you again here soon.

      Welcome Lindsay. I think we had interference with pollination, as I said in the post…I have now cut up and cooked maybe 20 such fruits, and only 2 others had this situation with the decaying seeds. So I am having a little harvest now, better than nothing, and hope to at least get to put up half of my usual tomato sauce. We shall see. Again, don’t give up; this isn’t the devastating late blight or anything, at least not yet. :)

  14. Dori says:

    Oh, how I long for some of your rain! I’m on Whidbey Island in Washington and this has been one of the driest summers ever. We had the lightest of showers this morning but all it did was add humidity. I’ll be turning on the soakers once again. Sorry about your tomato rot! Usually that is the scurge of our gardens! Strange weather!

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Dori. I have so many gardening friends in the PNW, and all are in pain after the freakish winter followed by this impossible drought. I am so sorry. Hope we see you soon again, anyway…we can all just complain together and commiserate. :)

  15. Leslie says:

    I’m in PNW too, near Mt. Rainier – this was my “heirloom tomato experiment” year – hah. Even getting them started indoors in Feb. only a couple varieties have set fruit, and no telling yet if some of that will ripen enough to get tomatoes and seeds for next year. Even the Early Girls have not made a good showing and they have BER to boot. Oh well. The beans and zukes are going great…will just buy fresh from the farmer’s market and canned for winter this year.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Leslie. Yes, hah, some year for the experiment on both our parts (in “hydroponic” tomatoes here, in other tortures there). So sorry. But we gardeners, we just try again next year, don’t we? :) See you soon!

  16. Growing vegetables says:

    I also faced problems regarding hairloom tomatoes in 2009. It was lateblight. This year The tomato plants are looking great, Let’s hope for the best.

  17. Angela says:

    I read that this kind of blossom-end rot was caused by calcium deficiency. I had a lot of it in my garden for a couple of years running, in all the tomatoes and some of the peppers. Sure enough, supplementing with calcium seemed to do the trick. The tomatoes were great this year.

    1. margaret says:

      Hi, Angela. Yes, indeed. Ca is moved up into the plant (and then the fruit) in water, so it’s especially problematic in years of erratic rain/irregular watering. Some soils may have enough Ca but it doesn’t get up into the plant in stressful times; some soils lack the Ca in the first place, etc. This U of Georgia factsheet may provide more details on prevention.

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